July 2022: Spotlight on lived experience E-Update

enews july

Welcome to the Campus Mental Health Strategy e-update. We’re on a mission to make mental health everyone’s business. In this edition we are spotlighting lived and living experience.

Spotlight on lived experience - Meet Emily Unity 

Emily is the Senior Project Officer Lived Experience with the Campus Mental Health Strategy, changing the way we think about mental health care. 

Emily Unity is the Senior Project Officer Lived Experience with the Campus Mental Health Strategy, the Royal Children’s Hospital.  

Emily (they/them) is a lived and living experience professional with a diverse portfolio focusing on intersectional experiences. They have worked with a variety of organisations, including Orygen, the National Mental Health Commission, Lived Experience Australia, headspace and Beyond Blue. In their work, Emily has identified, created, and facilitated opportunities for meaningful lived experience engagement to help design a future for all people, regardless of background, identity, or intersectionality, ensuring that there is “nothing about us, without us”. Emily grounds their professional work in their personal lived experience of mental health challenges, homelessness, suicide, young carer, LGBTIQA+, having a disability, and being from a refugee and migrant background. 

What is intersectionality, put simply? 

The concept that various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. 

What is intersectionality, in the dictionary?  

The interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. 

What does it mean for mental health? 

Our experiences of mental health are often intersectional and can be influenced by multiple factors, such as co-morbidities, gender, race, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, housing, education, employment, and more. It is imperative to address mental health with an intersectional lens. 

What is Lived and Living Experience? 

The Campus Mental Health Strategy team is committed to ensuring that people with previous experiences (lived) and/or current experience (living) of mental ill-health and recovery are at the heart of what we do.  This is critical to embedding a culture of commitment to and respect for people with lived and living experience, who can identify as: 

  • someone with personal experience of mental ill-health and recovery; and/or 
  • a family member and/or carer who has experience in supporting a person living with mental ill-health and recovery.   

Across the Melbourne Children’s Campus, people with lived and living experience refers to children, young people, families, and parents/carers. 

To find out more about Lived Experience visit : Lived and living experience - Mental Health Central 

New Lived Experience Podcast

Humans Behind Healthcare is dedicated to raising awareness of the lived experience of healthcare professionals.

Emily Unity, Senior Project Officer Lived Experience with the Campus Mental Health Strategy has created a podcast series. Humans Behind Healthcare is dedicated to raising awareness of the lived experience of healthcare professionals.  In each episode, we’ll hear from different healthcare professionals and explore how they navigate their relationships between their personal lived experiences and their professional experiences. 

In our first episode Using Ourselves as Therapeutic Tools, Belinda Horton, Program Director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, joins host Emily Unity to speak about her experience and thoughts about  mental health professionals who also have lived experience of mental health challenges. Belinda has worked as a Mental Health Occupational Therapist in perinatal mental health for over 25 years, including 10 years as CEO of Australia’s specialist perinatal mental health service provider, PANDA. 

Link to podcast

Welcome Lived Experience Advisors

Welcome to our new Lived Experience Advisors, we can already see the incredible richness you bring.

At the Campus Mental Health Strategy, we are committed to doing things with, not for, people with lived and living experience.  

Engagement of people with lived and living experience engagement is integral to ensuring that we develop, implement, and evaluate the Strategy outcomes that best support children, young people, families, and parents/carers to be healthy, safe, and able to lead a life they value.  

To achieve this, we have established our Lived Experience Advisors (LEA) program and engagement strategy. LEAs are people with lived and living experience who are interested and skilled in sharing their experiences to help improve mental health research, education and care across the Melbourne Children’s Campus. The LEA program facilitates effective, meaningful, and remunerated engagement with people with lived and living experience.  

Where are we up to? 

We have been recruiting to the program since April 2022 and have over 750 Lived Experience Advisors. These LEAs are from a variety of backgrounds, identities, and intersectionalities. See the current demographic breakdown below:

The kind of engagement opportunities we are engaging LEAs include joining Advisory Groups, working groups and design workshops. Our LEAs are supported through an engagement strategy that has been approved by the Campus Mental Health Strategy Team, the RCH Consumer Engagement and Partnerships Team, and the RCH Mental Health Transformation Team.  

We don’t underestimate that working with people with lived and living experience in service design and development can be daunting, as it requires a paradigm shift from traditional ‘deliver and inform’ methods to ‘involve and collaborate’ through co-production approaches. However, the value of lived and living experience cannot  be underestimated. 

“As people of lived and living experience, we have a fundamental right to be involved in decision making that affects us. Melbourne Children’s Campus has a responsibility to support us to be at the heart of what it does”. 

A warm welcome to our LEAs, we look forward to continuing to  work with and learn from you, and ultimately co-producing a future where there is nothing is about us, without us. 

Welcome RCH Pilot Sites

We are thrilled to welcome The RCH pilot sites to the Campus Mental Health Strategy journey. 

The clinical implementation approach for the Campus Mental Health Strategy is to: 

  1. co-design the new initiative (model of care, tools, or resources) with clinicians and Lived Experience Advisors 
  2. trial the initiative in the pilot site  
  3. evaluate the impact, feasibility and acceptability of the initiative and, if successful  
  4. scale to more pilot sites, and over time implement on a larger scale 

The Senior Project Officers and Key Area Leads have identified and confirmed pilot sites for each key area of work within the Campus Mental Health Strategy. 

What is a pilot site? 

A pilot site could be a clinic, ward, bed card, nominated cohort of patients or a specific staff group.  Pilot sites are the first team to test the new initiative and report back on its success.  They are critical in the design, implementation, and evaluation.  These teams will: 

  • design, pilot and refine the initiative eg model of care 
  • work collaboratively with people with lived and living experience to continue to refine the design 
  • contribute to  the initiative  and how it’s implemented including overcoming any challenges 
  • be supported by Strategy Implementation Team to implement and evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of the initiative  
  • help us understand if the new initiative is a good fit for other teams across the Campus 

What are we piloting? 

The Key Area of Consistent Quality Care will first be piloting a measurement-based care tool for anxiety.  Later in the year, the team will pilot the Clinical Practice Guideline and Care Pathway for anxiety. 

Measurement-based care is the systematic evaluation of a patient’s symptoms before or during an encounter to inform treatment/care using a standard set of outcome measures.  

The Key Area Family Centred Care  will be designing and piloting a model that detects and responds to parent/carer and sibling mental health concerns.  The team will also pilot mental health resources for both families and staff. 

The Key Area of  Trauma Informed Preventative Care (TIPC) will be designing a series of training programs, starting with a Trauma Informed Foundational Training Program for staff. 

We would like to welcome the 6 pilot sites to the Campus Mental Health Strategy journey.  It has been wonderful to hear the enthusiasm,  positivity and the willingness to be involved.  Together, we are taking the first steps to making mental health everyone’s business – thank you. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Australian Aboriginal Flag
Progress Pride Flag
Torres Strait Islander Flag

At Mental Health Central we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live, gather and work. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

We acknowledge all people with a lived or living experience of mental ill-health and recovery. At the Campus, we particularly acknowledge children, young people, families, carers, and supporters. We recognise their vital contribution and value the courage of those who share this unique perspective for the purpose of learning and growing together to achieve better outcomes for the Campus, staff, sector, and all people of lived experience.


Proudly supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation